Get the key ideas from

The Antidote

Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

By Oliver Burkeman
15-minute read
Audio available
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness. The author emphasizes that positive thinking isn’t the solution, but part of the problem. He outlines an alternative, “negative” path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty – what we usually spend our lives trying to avoid.

  • Anyone who wants to feel happy, even when things go wrong
  • Anyone who’s tired of setting and trying to follow through rigid goals
  • Anyone who wants to learn to appreciate what they have

Oliver Burkeman is a British journalist who writes the popular weekly column “This Column Will Change your Life” for The Guardian. He won the Foreign Press Association’s Young Journalist of the Year award and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. The Antidote (2013) is his second book. He currently lives in New York City. 

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Antidote

Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

By Oliver Burkeman
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
Synopsis

The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness. The author emphasizes that positive thinking isn’t the solution, but part of the problem. He outlines an alternative, “negative” path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty – what we usually spend our lives trying to avoid.

Key idea 1 of 10

The self-help industry is shallow and fraudulent – and it won’t make you happier.

The plethora of self-help books promising its readers a better life speaks to our culture’s obsession with achieving happiness. But if you strip away the shiny covers and flashy slogans, it won’t take you long to realize that the messages they contain are completely banal.

For example, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the bestselling self-help books of all time, essentially instructs readers to decide what matters most to them in life and do it.

A similar bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, advises readers to be pleasant rather than obnoxious, and to use people’s first names a lot.

And some of these books aren’t just banal – they’re downright false. Several best-selling books on the importance of setting goals quote the so-called Yale Study of Goals. In this study, students from Yale’s graduating class of 1953 were asked whether they had concrete, written-down goals for their lives. Only 3% of them said they had. Two decades later, when members of the class were located and asked how their lives had turned out, lo and behold, the 3% who had written down their goals had amassed greater financial wealth than the other 97% combined.

This study would be great evidence that writing down goals could secure future success – if it weren’t a fake. Indeed, it was later revealed that the Yale Study of Goals never took place at all.

Finally, self-help books often imply that a person’s level of happiness corresponds to their level of wealth. And yet, one of the best-known general findings of the “science of happiness” is that most of the advantages of modern life haven’t lifted our collective mood. Above a certain basic level of income, making more and more money doesn’t make us happier and happier.

Similarly, international studies have shown that some of the world’s poorest countries are the happiest. In one survey, Nigeria, where 92% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, came in first place.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.